By Pankti Dalal
On the last day of my high school, during the last morning assembly, it played again. The sound of the national anthem beautifully composed by India’s finest gem, Rabindranath Tagore, made my heart race fast. There was something about the beauty of those words, the pulsing patriotism with which the entire class was singing it together for the last time. It was a moment that changed by life; for this would be the day my friends bid farewell to their Indian education and flew to distant lands to change their lives. And it was in this moment, with the national anthem playing loud and clear in my head, that I was comforted and sure that I was staying back in India, a nation where the sky is the limit.
Coming from an affluent family, I have always been swept away by the luxuries of the western culture. But perhaps the greatest decision of my life so far has been the one to choose to study politics. In my hungry desire to learn all I can about this country, and struggle to dive into the depths of time, somewhere across the waves of history and politics, I have come to believe that India holds a potential far greater than any other nation. This essay aims to highlight this very potential.
The greatest scroll of promise that our predecessors have left behind for us is the golden book titled “Constitution of India.” Written by some of the premium minds of this country, the moment India put this into effect on 26th January 1950, I believe it sealed itself a promising future.
“WE, THE PEOPLE OF INDIA, having solemnly resolved to constitute India into a SOVEREIGN SOCIALIST SECULAR DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC and to secure to all its citizens:
JUSTICE, social, economic and political;
LIBERTY of thought, expression, belief, faith and worship;
EQUALITY of status and of opportunity;
And to promote among them all
FRATERNITY assuring the dignity of the individual and the unity and integrity of the Nation;
IN OUR CONSTITUENT ASSEMBLY this twenty-sixth day of November, 1949, do HEREBY ADOPT, ENACT AND GIVE TO OURSELVES THIS CONSTITUTION.”
While the American independence movement or the French independence movement marked the historic beginning of freedom and democracy; it would take years of struggle and bloody civil wars until either of them truly gave rights to slaves and women. Whereas on the birth of our country we not only promised equality to all but also assured them of the justice and liberty.
Another important facet of the constitution is the gift of democracy. While the governments all around the world have collapsed and changed forms, the Indian democracy stands tall with a firm grip of over 60 years. It has survived the dark period of emergency from 1975-77 under Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. It has also made it through the various coalition governments where other countries in the past have failed and perished.
Taking the most recent example, the moment the United Progressive Alliance led by the Indian National Congress was exposed to its skin of scandals that ripped the tax contributing population, the masses called for change. When the political analysts failed to predict the hope for a majority government, the Bharatiya Janata Party proved otherwise by its mammoth victory in the 16th Lok Sabha elections of 2014.
The scope for change was also shown by the symbolic broom of the Aam Aadmi Party. With scathing accusations of breeding corruption on the sacred ground of democracy is concerned, the rise of the Aam Aadmi Party with its single aim on eradicating corruption was chosen by the inhabitants of Delhi. It’s victory in the Delhi state elections with a jaw dropping 67 seats out of 70 putting the BJP at the centre to shame, is not merely an example but is testament to the fact that democracy will thrive and India will vote for change each time.
While the Emergency is often claimed as a blotch on our democracy and often referred to as one of India’s “darkest periods”, it taught us many lessons. It taught the voting masses that never again would they allow any government to take absolute control and this till date has been kept in check. Secondly, in the most controversial 1976, 42nd Amendment the words “secular” and “socialist” were inserted into the preamble of our constitution.
This turned our government overnight from “watchdog” to “welfare” government and gave a new meaning to the directive principles of state policy. This transformation to a welfare government will give the platform for more a citizen friendly administration. As far as “secularism” is concerned, for a country that is a polyglot of religions and culture, it epitomises the symbols of “unity and integrity of the nation.”
Another milestone and mirror of our future is the Judiciary of India. One of its finest legacies which particularly captivates me, is the Keshavnanda Bharti vs. State of Kerala case (1973). It marked the end of the battle between the power struggle of the parliament and the judiciary as far as the protection of rights of citizens was concerned. It was that 13 member bench that laid the “Basic Principles Doctrine” that sealed faith of fundamental rights for years to come. It is this faith in the judiciary and the balance of power that will keep the state machinery in check for years to come.
Giving further power and expanding the empowerment of the citizens came in the legendary concepts of the Public Interest Litigation and the Right to Information Act. The Public Interest Litigation, in benefit for justice to the citizens, has given the community the power to fight injustices committed against them. The right to information gave access to the masses for all the documents necessary, having the right to know where our money goes and how the elected representatives to drive the nation work for our progress.
A population of 1.2 billion is a gigantic figure. While it has often been associated with poverty, I believe the number is the formula for the country’s development. The math is simple; take the potential of one person add the advantage of soil and skill, and multiply that into 1.2 billion and you have infinite potential or in the benefit of the aim of this essay, “the sky is the limit.”
As far as the calculations of qualified analysts are concerned, it is predicted that while the countries in the near future will face a shortage of young contributing citizens, India will have its greatest output and therefore race ahead in development.
When the potential of India is concerned and its scope for growth, the economy cannot be ignored. In the 1990’s, the Indian economy was on the brink of being crippled. In the face of this crisis, it rose like a phoenix from the ashes of a near empty foreign exchange reserve. 1991 marked a turning point in our economy when we adopted the New Economic Policy. From the “Nehruvian-socialist” closed economy we gave our economy the three magic words, “Liberalization, Privatization and Globalization.”
The investors have now started to look at India as a growing market, with scope of expansion in multiple sectors such as telecom, finance, education, retail, manufacturing, power, agriculture and health care. It is a popular theory amongst the economists that by 2028 India will surpass its growth and stand to be the third largest economy. Some even predict it to out pace China. In terms of economic power, India is predicted to proclaim its status as a “super power.”
While the economy is the answer to a lot of rooted problems related to poverty in our country, there are other important underlying issues. It is the balance of the economy along with social and political progress that will truly allow India to achieve the heights it desires too. The people cannot be overlooked in the rush for Development. Therefore having better standards of living and literacy rates is extremely important.
An example of this is the State of Gujarat. The pioneering merchant class and the role of a pro-business administration has made the state a symbol of the development that can be achieved. However, in the bargain the education has been affected and little has been done for the improvement of this sector. Even the tribal communities have been sidelined in the name of progressive development. Communal sparks often driven by the majority has left to ghettoisation of the minorities. These are simply some of the boiling issues which if surfaced in the wrong manner could prove to be disastrous to the progress the nation has achieved.
With growing modernization, women have stepped out into the job market. This has led to a significant contribution in the progress of our country, not merely for feminist reasons but the simple fact that there are more helping hands and new perspectives in the way in which this country has to be run. While still a patriarchal society, India has come a far way in giving scope and opportunities for women to grow.
The evidence for this comes from the women that have found their way up as the leading ladies of the country. Sonia Gandhi, president of the oldest and largest political party of India, Indian National Congress. Medha Pathkar and her historic Chipko movement, or Irom Sharmila and her voice against the oppressive Arms Forces Special Protection Act. In the Business world, Kiran Shaw, Arundhati Bhattacharya & Chanda Kochhar have earned their rightful place in the Forbes' 2014-list of 100 most powerful women.
However a hanging knife on the progress of women is the rising crime rate against them. The brutal rape and murders of innocent women highlights serious safety issues. The progress and value of a nation is hampered if it fails to protect its citizens. Therefore unless the respect for them comes from within then it will be an alarming failure in the idealistic social progress of the country. This also includes women respecting each other and not limiting themselves based on the aforementioned orthodox and outdated societal constructs.
Besides these dynamic factors, there is an intrinsic value of this nation, which is quite unique and sets us apart from the other countries. It is the land of a rich cultural heritage. The Taj Mahal being the most iconic features of this past. India was also home, to one of the most advanced civilizations, the Indus valley civilization. Examples from history are numerous, such as The Golden age, the Iron age and the Mughal dynasty. India is also the koh-i-noor jeweled land, and the riches of the Indian treasury added the wealth to European economies. The aesthetic value of the gifts of the past like the Ashoka pillar, Sanchi Stupa, temple architecture and many more, if promoted and glorified can open the avenues of tourism which can do wonders for our economy.
In no other country has the culture so intrinsically been weaved into its present and been preserved. Our simple acknowledgement to greet each other with a ‘Namaste’ is the symbol of a 5000 year old tradition. The family and community based approached has made our country avoid the debts that other countries face, by the simple inheritance of the value of “savings”. We have always been an agrarian society, blessed geographically by land and spices, which has not only got our nation so far, but has said an iconic mark in the global world with the famous “Butter Chicken” or “Pani-puri.”
It is the retention of these values and culture along with the acceptance of change, that will truly let the dynamic progress of this country happen. Here I would say that the Indian culture itself has infinite potential like the water in the sea. If you take the Indian culture to be a vast sea, the influence of westernization and many other cultures have seeped in like tributaries and yet the sea flows, absorbing it all and struggling to exist.
Lastly, the growth of a nation can severely be limited by the position it holds in the international community. In the global world today, international relations play an immense role. The Non-Alignment Movement (NAM) was one of the significant achievements of Indian foreign relations which kept India from submerging into the destructions of the Cold War. This was an inspiration for many nations and has helped India retain its powerful and independent status in South Asia.
Article 51 of the Indian constitution even establishes India, as a peace-loving and globally participative country. Thus India actively participates in the United Nations, and even maintains warm relations as a respectable member of the South Asian Association for Regional Co-operation, nations. India’s future lies in the hope to establish itself in the Security Council, and secure itself as a super power with a growing economy, powerful army and even nuclear capabilities to secure itself from any future threat.
In conclusion, I believe that India has also the potential factors to march forward as a nation with infinite potential. It has the five key elements to the success of a powerful state; population, government, territory, economy and international relations. These remain as attributes perfectly suited for success, however there is no doubt that there are severe underlying problems in the country too.
It is a tryst with destiny and there is hope that India will rise above poverty, illiteracy, communalism, naxalism, corruption and crime, in the wake of change, while the world sleeps. Ultimately in the words of Ramchandra Guha, “the most powerful enemy of India, is the Indian State.” The moment we realize the potential that our country holds and truly live up to the principles enshrined in the preamble of our constitution, we will be able to soar above the skies.